Volunteer Extraordinaire; 2008 AU Graduate Tireless in Work with Hispanic Youth

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 23, 2009 | Go to article overview

Volunteer Extraordinaire; 2008 AU Graduate Tireless in Work with Hispanic Youth


Byline: Geraldine Washington, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When Jeff Olson, motivational speaker and author of The Slight Edge, talks, people listen. At least, Amanda M. Quinones did when he said: Find people who've done what you want to do and surround yourself with them.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Ms. Quinones, 23, has always been surrounded by good, nurturing people. She hails from a close-knit, devoutly Catholic family and credits her parents, Miguel and Madalaine, as being her greatest inspirations.

Her father is Puerto Rican, and her mother is Italian, and from this well-blended union, Ms. Quinones said she learned and still cherishes a strong sense of family and community values. She fondly remembers growing up with many extended family members and recalls with childlike enthusiasm Christmases spent at both her maternal and paternal relatives' homes.

I had the best of two worlds, rather cultures, said Ms. Quinones, who lives in Columbia Heights in the District.

In 2006, while an American University student majoring in international relations, Ms. Quinones was an intern at the U.S. Department of Labor in the Mine Safety Health Administration. Her supervisor, Laura McCullen, encouraged her to volunteer with the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers, an entity that focuses attention on the needs of Hispanic-Americans in all areas of federal employment. Ms. McCullen, who was actively involved with the Hispanic College Fund (HCF), also recruited Ms. Quinones to help plan its 2006 Hispanic Youth Symposium.

So began Ms. Quinones' volunteer work with HCF, whose Web site describes it as a nonprofit organization established in 1993 to provide Hispanic high school and college students with the vision, resources and mentorship to become community leaders and achieve successful careers in business, science, technology, engineering and math.

This year, Ms. Quinones was honored with the HCF's 2008 President's Volunteer Service Award during a reception in May.

Though her initial assigned tasks were limited in 2006 - she filled in wherever needed - Ms. Quinones said she was indelibly moved by the positive effect the workshops had on participants. Once-shy students who had little or no hope of attending college emerged confident and determined to go, she said.

I was hooked. I made it my point to be involved, she said.

HCF has awarded $13 million in scholarships to more than 4,800 Hispanic youth, according to its Web site. The organization has expanded its programs to include HCF Connections, an online career-centered network for Hispanic youth; the Karen Marquez Institute for Young Hispanic Professionals, a leadership development program; Latinos on Fast Track, a professional internship and placement program; and the Hispanic Youth Symposium, a program designed to inspire Hispanic high school students to attend college. …

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